As a breast cancer survivor, I'm not sure whether I love October or fear it. Seeing the spectrum of pink colors everywhere can be overwhelming. It's a constant reminder that I'm sick. And yes, I know that thousands of women and men are afflicted with this disease yearly, so the pink promotion isn't about me being ill. But sometimes, I just get inside my head. My thoughts go to the scary places that we all want to push away. And sometimes, I just want to cry.
Other times, I feel a tremendous amount of guilt. I watch the courageous stories on TV, skim magazine covers plastered with the bald and beautiful and think, "Wow, I am lucky." And then the conversation in my head continues. In my mind, I'm walking through the hospital door to treatment where I feel the same sentiment: guilt. Guilty for being one of the few with hair, though I did lose it 10 years ago. Guilty that I look healthy, trim and tan, so can hide that I'm sick. And guilty for even thinking about this stuff, because I should be enjoying each moment I have.
Other times, the pink brings out a power within me. As a "survivor," I am strong and so are all the others. We're brave and courageous for having to deal with the uncertainties, as well as the physical and emotional pains, while also dealing with the logistics of treatments. Even through it all, we giggle, sing, dance and party. Still, sometimes, I just want to cry.
Please know, I'm eternally grateful to all the businesses, media companies and individuals who paint the town pink in an effort to educate, prevent and raise money to cure breast cancer. I've seen firsthand how early detection and new treatments can improve one's quality of life. But sometimes, I just want to cry.
I want to cry because I'm so sad, angry, hurt, confused that so many people have to deal with cancer. And that still, there is no cure.
I want to cry because for every happy story I see, I realize there are many stories that don't end happily. I cry for them and cry for me -- wondering if I will be one of them.
I want to cry because I've been blessed. For some reason, I have had breast cancer, skin cancer and metastatic (breast cancer) disease, yet I'm still here, living every day with the ones I love.
I want to cry because, even through these cancers, I still sometimes forget to live in the moment and appreciate all I have.
Keep in mind, I also cry when I'm happy. And the truth is, despite all the hard times that come with cancer and the constant reminder that it's October, I'm happy. I'm happy that Breast Cancer Awareness Month educates men, women and children about the importance of breast self-exams for early detection. I'm happy that many women are now aware of the value of mammograms and discussing breast cancer with their doctors. I'm happy that so many organizations donate their time, money and resources to help families struggling with this illness. And I'm happy that funds are being raised to find a cure for breast cancer.
So while the whole world is painting the town pink this month, do join in and donate, attend fundraisers, visit your doctor and learn how to do a breast self-exam. But also, go home and tell your best friend, spouse, child or pet how much you love them. Remember pink also equals love. I've found that in all the lessons I've learned about cancer, I've felt my best when I embrace all the love around me.